UNITED NATIONS (UNTV) – Former United Nations Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kofi Annan%20Annan&redirect=yes"> has died at the age of 80, his foundation said on Saturday (August 18).
In Geneva, the Kofi Annan%20Annan&redirect=yes"> Foundation announced his peaceful death with “immense sadness” after a short illness, saying he was surrounded in his last days by his second wife Nane and children Ama, Kojo and Nina.
But after he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001, he faced mounting bad news — the war in Iraq which he opposed, lingering questions on U.N. scandals, deteriorating ties with the George W. Bush administration and U.S. right-wingers calling for his head.
Annan, a Ghanaian and career U.N. official, listed his main achievements as establishing the concept of a responsibility to protect civilians when their rulers would not or could not. He also ranked high his struggle against poverty.
Then came the most painful event — the bombing of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad on August 19, 2003 that killed 22 people after Annan had decided, at the urging of the United States, to send senior U.N. staff back to Iraq.
In 2003, the oil-for-food scandal also broke, with Saddam Hussein having bilked the $64 billion USD program designed to relieve the pain of U.N. sanctions on ordinary Iraqis. The sanctions were imposed after Baghdad’s troops invaded Kuwait.
While few U.N. officials were accused of enriching themselves, the world body was blamed for lax management and not blowing the whistle on Saddam’s tactics.
Annan admitted mismanagement and said the “scandal, if any, was in the capitals and with the 2,200 companies that made a deal with Saddam behind our backs.” The affair was the subject of an 18-month inquiry, headed by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker.
But critics say the world body underestimated the seriousness of the scandal as well as questions that remain to this day about Annan’s son, Kojo, who worked for a firm that received a large contract under the program.
With his dazzling Swedish wife Nane, Annan had been the subject of admiration throughout the world. But his ties with Washington ran hot and cold after the Iraq war and his relations with ex-U.S. Ambassador John Bolton bordered on hostile.
In his last year in office, he regained his confidence, negotiating Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon, criticising the United States for unilateralism, rebuking supporters of the Palestinians for tying up the U.N. General Assembly with endless resolutions and chastising everyone for lack of action in Sudan’s Darfur region.